I have always had an affinity for hills. It doesn’t have to be mountains – although a decent, properly craggy top will always grab my attention – generally it just needs to be somewhere with a lung expanding amount of height, offering the promise of a view, and that provides the ‘map like’ perspective you only get with a good dose of elevation.
It’s hard to say what it is about being in the hills that I like most. Sometimes it’s the subtlety of a wraparound, velvety contour as the clouds judder over the ridge, but on other days it can just be the downright grandeur of the geology itself, writ large against the ravages of time and people.
Perhaps not surprising then, that from the moment I jumped on my first fluro-forked, fully rigid, canti-braked Marin; mountain biking has been the perfect way to feed my soul-led desire to be in hilly places.
So, finding myself on a rainy, overcast Sunday morning en route to Thetford - gazing out at the steadfastly flat landscapes of Norfolk - I was having some distinct problems reconciling my view of how the ‘mountain’ and ‘biking’ bits were going to fit together.
I’d been lured by a good friend who knows the area well, with the promise of ribbony, flowing, mile upon mile of singletrack. “Honestly, you’ll love it!” Honestly; I wasn’t so sure. Some people find big horizon skies liberating, I could feel myself mentally hunting for a bump or hillock, in fact any sort of feature that I could ‘tuck’ away into.
Turns out, I needn’t have worried. As I was led on a dance of twists and turns through the trees, I stopped looking for hills and quickly switched to seeking out bumps and turns as my speed sources. In fact, slight elevations became interruptions to the increasingly ‘flat out’ chase, as my eyes and expectations adjusted to the terrain. Even the experience of being on an extremely diddy, loaner singlespeed didn’t alter the sensation of momentum, and the narrow [bordering on retro-chic] handlebars, made gap squeezing a breeze.
You’re never going to convince me that riding the flatlands is mountain biking as I know and love it. But it’s certainly biking in its own right, and with good friends for company that’s more than enough – even for this mountain goat!